The Tide Guide
Sailing on the sea is great fun. This section aims to provide you
with some knowledge on tides.
Locals and fellow windsurfers
One of the best ways of learning about tides is to speak to locals and fellow windsurfers who sail on the particular stretch of sea that you are planning to sail on. WaterTrader recommends that you NEVER sail alone or go too far out to sea. Unlike inland lakes where there is normally a safety boat to rescue you, on the sea you are basically alone, and the sea is a big, big, vast area ! Where possible stick to enclosed bays and harbours to begin, again the WaterTrader team does not recommend sailing in an offshore wind unless you are a hardcore mad-man!
OK this may seem an obvious thing to check but some people may turn up at the coast, and if its windy start setting up their kit. Sound familiar? Always check a weather report before going out on the sea, there are some excellent weather sites, i.e. http://www.watertrader.co.uk/index.htm which will provide you with information on wind strengths and risk of storms. If storms are forecast leave the kit at home ! Storms bring with them extreme variations in weather, plus there's the added risk of being struck by lightening.
Sharks! and other dangerous sea-living creatures.
It is always wise to check out the local wildlife ! You want to know whether there are any good pubs to go after a hard days windsurfing don't you? No, not that kind of wildlife! Find out whether the area is known for sharks, Portuguese Man-O-War, needlefish, or any other health threatening creatures. A simple sting can impede your windsurfing and prevent you from getting back to shore safely. Always wear a full body wetsuit if there are any dangers as this will lower the chance of your skin coming into contact with stings and the like (although needlefish have been known to go right through wetsuits with their long needle-like noses). You should always make yourself aware of "self-rescue" techniques, so that should you ever get into trouble you can get home without having to windsurf. (Also useful if your rig breaks out at sea)
Normally there are two low and two high tides a day. There are various reasons why you need to know the times of high and low tides. Firstly if you set sail in a high tide and return in a low tide on long beaches with gentle gradients you may have a long walk back to where you started from. This is the best case scenario. Secondly if you set sail in a low tide and return in a high tide, if the beach has a steep gradient you may sail back in only to end up where large waves are breaking. Not a good scenario for your rig and more importantly you, especially where there are underlying currents that you are not aware of. At some locations there may even be a sea wall. Again you may sail back in after a hard days windsurfing only to find yourself where large waves are breaking against the sea wall, and you will no doubt end up wherever the waves are going, well you can figure this scenario out for yourself…
Tidal Streams - Tidal streams normally flow parallel with the coast, changing direction as the tide changes.
The tidal stream does however tend to follow deep water channels, some of which lead straight out to sea. When sailing in estuary's you should be wary of tidal streams when the tide is going out as there is a risk of being taken straight out to sea. From high tide to low tide takes 6 hours, the tidal stream flows fastest between hours 3 and 4 and you should at least be aware of this.
Other advice on sea sailing
Always wear a good pair of rubber soled windsurfing boots, when the sea is particularly murky it hides a multitude of dangers, broken bottles, coral reefs, sharp rocks etc.
This guide to tides is just a brief overview to make you aware of dangers at sea, it should not be taken as an exclusive guide to windsurfing at sea, you cannot glean a better knowledge than by speaking to locals and gaining experience yourself.